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Gardening Question of the Day

I have a sick bonsai tree and need help.

We're out of our depth when it comes to discussing bonsai, so we can offer just the basics. Watering depends very much on the type of bonsai, but as a general rule, water once a day for a well-drained pot. The appearance of liverwort on the soil means either poor drainage or overwatering. Dry soil and brown moss are signs of underwatering. Fertilizer should be used sparingly. Check the wiring on the tree and remove it before it starts biting into the bark. We suggest checking the Internet for more information. There should be expert sources out there to help you.

Last 7 Days

    What's the best way to plant a clematis?

    First, give them a site where their roots can be shaded and cool and their tops in full sun. Planting them with a ground cover or surrounded by mulch can accomplish this. They will also appreciate a loose soil giving their roots plenty of room to grow. Once they're in the ground, don't disturb them. They hate that. Keep the soil moist always during the first year.

    I understand that black walnut trees have a compound that inhibits growth in certain plants. I intend to garden several yards away from one. What precautions should I take to ensure the safety of my veggies? Also, since the leaves and twigs cannot be composted, what procedure is necessary to prevent this material from contaminating the rest of my compostable leaves?

    It's the roots of the black walnut that can cause the most damage to your veggies. They excrete a toxic substance that can harm some plants, including tomatoes and alfalfa. The toxic zone from a mature black walnut tree can extend up to 80 feet around the base of the tree, so if possible, plant your garden at least that far away.You can compost black walnut leaves, but it's recommended that you do so separately from your main compost pile. And since there's no easy way to separate them from other leaves in your yard, we recommend just burning all the debris from the area around a black walnut.

    How do you harvest kale -- take the whole plant or just the leaves?

    Remove the older, outside leaves for best results, but you can cut off the entire plant if you wish. The tender mature leaves are best, and if you take just the outer leaves, you can allow the inner leaves to mature further for better taste.

    Do you have any ideas for keeping raccoons out of my garden?

    We have several. To scare them away, put a radio in your garden and leave it on all night. (You may wish to check with your neighbors first.) You can achieve the same effect by putting pinwheels and streamers in your garden. These will move and make noise in the wind. Raccoons especially like to nibble corn, so to keep them away from cornstalks, plant squash around the corn. Raccoons don't like to walk on the prickly squash vines.

    I love my compost pile, but how can I control the gnats and flies that swarm around it?

    If you're getting hundreds of this pests, it's probably because your compost pile is not appropriately aerated. A few bugs are expected, of course, but try stirring your pile up more often. Make sure grass clippings, for example, are well mixed with leaves to ensure they're getting air as they decompose. If your compost pile smells bad, that's also a sure sign you need more aeration.

    What plants go in a butterfly garden?

    Many varieties are good at attracting butterflies. They include allium, aster, bee balm, butterfly bush, clove pink, cornflower, daylily, false indigo, fleabane, floss flower, globe thistle, goldenrod, Helen's flower, hollyhock, honeysuckle, lavender, lilac, lupine, lychnis, mallow, milkweed, pansy, phlox, privet, purple coneflower, purple loosestrife, rock cress, sea holly, Shasta daisy, snapdragon, stonecrop, sweet alyssum, sweet rocket, tickseed, and zinnia.

    Can I grow okra in my northern Wisconsin garden?

    Okra, of course, is commonly associated with warmer climates and southern cooking, but it can be grown anywhere cucumbers and eggplants do well. Sow it when you're certain the soil and the night will be warm. You'll see the fruits of your labor as soon as the plant is 1 foot tall and it will continue bearing until the first frost. When harvesting, use caution in touching the leaves of the plant. They can cause an adverse reaction in some people.

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